Gazprom has ramped up flows to Hungary through the TurkStream pipeline that transports gas via Bulgaria and Serbia, a Hungarian foreign ministry official has said.
The Russian state-owned company started delivering more gas than it was contractually obliged to on Friday, Tamás Menczer, an official in Hungary’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade, wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
By the end of August, Gazprom would supply Hungary with an addition 2.6m cubic metres a day, said Menczer, a member of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party.
TurkStream, which runs through the Black Sea, is called Balkan Stream in Bulgaria, where the pipeline enters EU territory. While Russia has stopped gas deliveries to Bulgaria, an EU member, Sofia continues to transit Russian gas to Serbia and Hungary.
Three weeks ago Hungary’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, travelled to Moscow to discuss buying an additional 700m cubic metres of gas, becoming the only top official from an EU member state to visit Russia since late February, bar the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who made a trip in April.
Hungary, which is about 85% dependent on Russian gas, has consistently opposed the idea of any EU sanctions on Russian gas imports, and Orbán, the prime minister, has also lobbied hard to secure an exemption from EU sanctions on Russian crude oil imports.
It is the only EU member state to have categorically ruled out acting on a plan to cut gas consumption by 15% from August this year until March 2023.
In Germany, which is also reliant on Russian gas imports, the economic ministry announced on Saturday night that the country needed to reduce its gas consumption by 20% to help the EU meet its 15% reduction target.
As a first step, the government moved to lower the mandatory minimum temperature in offices in the private and public sector by one degree to 19C. The heating of private swimming pools, as well as lighting up buildings or monuments “for purely aesthetic purposes”, will be banned. Outdoor advertising signs are to be switched off from 10pm until 6am.
Germany’s government is also ordering gas providers to inform their customers of rising costs and potential measures to make savings in the autumn.
Natural gas makes up about 27% of Germany’s overall energy mix. Before the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, just over half (55%) of gas consumed in Germany was imported from Russia, with the government reducing its reliance to under 30% since.
Some German cities unilaterally announced saving measures in July, with Hanover in north-west Germany announcing plans to turn off hot water in the showers and bathrooms of city-run buildings and leisure centres.
“We are on the cusp of a huge national effort that will require strong coordination between the state, business and society, between the federal administration, the states, municipalities, social partners, unions, the crafts and their associations, as well as civil society”, said the minister for the economy, Robert Habeck. “Every effort counts”.
• This article was amended on 15 August 2022 to render Tamás Menczer’s name in the western order, with surname last, for consistency with other Hungarian names.